2022, the worst pandemic summer in Quebec

Many more deaths, higher hospitalizations, but above all, strong community transmission: 2022 is to date the worst pandemic summer that Quebec has experienced. In the midst of the seventh wave, the province is now facing a new reality: the new variants are increasingly breaking the “seasonal logic” to which COVID-19 has accustomed us until now.

Posted at 6:30 pm

Henri Ouellette-Vezina

Henri Ouellette-Vezina

Pierre-André Normandin

Pierre-André Normandin

“The more the virus changes, the more we are surprised. The phenomenon of seasonal cycles that we saw before is unraveling more and more, a bit like the flu. It is something that we had begun to see with the previous variants, but that is becoming more and more accentuated, ”explains D.re Sophie Zhang, a family doctor at CHSLD Bruchési.

The pandemic is being felt much more in Quebec hospitals this summer. They currently have to deal with 1,887 infected patients. This is significantly more than the last two years, even taking into account the fact that only a third of people hospitalized (or 640) were admitted due to COVID-19. During the same period in 2020 there were 285 infected patients and 81 in 2021.

On the mortality side, Quebec reports an average of 11 deaths per day. At this time in 2020, it was less than 3 a day. Moreover, the comparison with the summer of 2021 is even more striking. Between June 15 and August 31, Quebec had deplored a total of 54 deaths. This summer, Quebec has already reported 243 since mid-June.

The virus “has not finished changing”

The Dre Zhang recalls that the virus is increasingly “thwarting” the immunological efficacy of vaccines, making the potential for contamination even greater, especially as the vaccination campaign for the booster dose is running out in Quebec. “It is a surprise effect. We’ve been to several waves, we’ve been to some [mieux] prepared. Suddenly no one expected to have so many cases this summer,” he adds.

As in previous waves, the young are spreading the coronavirus while the older are paying the price. Two-thirds of people currently infected are under the age of 60. These are doing quite well, with few experiencing complications. By contrast, people over the age of 80 largely explain the high number of COVID-19 victims this summer. If they register just 13% of cases, they represent more than a third of hospitalizations and two thirds of deaths.

“The problem, for me, is that we act a bit as if we really are in an endemic phase, when we are not. We still cannot control the virus, we cannot predict it, it is not cyclical like influenza, for example. This is what surprises us all at the moment”, says the virologist and professor of the department of biological sciences at UQAM Benoit Barbeau, for whom the growing leak of vaccines is probably also “for a long time”.

In his opinion, the population “has already decided that the pandemic was endemic, and that we are going forward”, which he says he understands after more than a year of sanitary restrictions. “Except the reality is that we won’t be endemic until we can predict the spread of this virus. »

We are in the idea that we are living with COVID-19, but it still surprises us enormously.

Benoit Barbeau, virologist

“We see that since the BA.5 variant, in particular, the virus has really improved its ability to transmit,” he adds. And it is to be hoped that in the coming months it will continue to do so. It hasn’t finished changing. »

Absences “hurt”

If deaths and hospitalizations remain under control in the health network, it is above all the strong community transmission and the marked absence of staff that is currently “hurting”, estimates the president of the Quebec Association of Emergency Physicians, the D.r Gilbert Boucher. On Friday there were 7,138 workers absent due to the pandemic in the health network.

“The biggest problem we have right now is really system congestion, he observes. When we add two or three colleagues who disappear each shift due to COVID, that gives days in plants where there are almost no admissions. »

The Dr Boucher affirms that since the beginning of the day, in several establishments, “the emergencies are already half full of patients who are waiting for hospitalizations” for COVID-19, but above all the majority for other reasons. “Caring for 10,000 patients with half the number of beds that can be managed is very complex. For three months, the exit rate of patients who leave without having seen a doctor has been around 15%. Historically, we are more over 10%”, he continues.

The situation in brief

The 11 deaths reported on Friday raised the daily average calculated for seven days to 11. The trend is 10% in one week. Quebec also reported an increase of 27 hospitalizations on Friday. The 1,887 people currently hospitalized represent a 22% increase in one week. In intensive care, the 42 patients represent a stable trend for one week. The 1,910 new cases reported on Friday brought the daily average to 1,736, making the trend 26% higher in one week. Finally, the vaccination campaign continues to advance. Quebec administers an average of 10,500 doses per day, mainly the fourth dose. To date, 83.6% of Quebecers have received two doses, but only 52.7% have received three, and 15.4% have received four.

Pierre-André Normandin, Press

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